Gainesville approves new districts

A months-long process to set new districts for the Gainesville City Commission wrapped up in a blink-and-you-will-miss-it special meeting Monday.

At a meeting that took less than three minutes, the commission passed on second reading an ordinance that redraws the city’s four districts. The commission had approved the ordinance on first reading at its regular meeting Thursday.

Election law requires the city to redistrict after each U.S. Census. The map approved Monday will remain in place until after the 2030 Census prompts the next cycle.

“Congratulations! We have maps for our districts for the next 10 years,” Mayor Lauren Poe said Monday after the unanimous vote. 

At a dais with multiple empty chairs including those of Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker and Commissioner David Arreola, Poe thanked an unspecified group of people in a nearly empty chamber for “all the work that went in on that.”

Redistricting started in fall with UF consultants and political science professors Michael McDonald and Daniel Smith engaging citizens to draw their own maps using DistrictBuilder software developed by McDonald.

One of the main goals of the redistricting process was to redistribute Gainesville’s population into four, roughly equal portions.

The pair presented an initial set of three maps, which incorporated citizen suggestions, to the commission in February. The commissioners spent the next couple of months making tweaks to the proposed districts, with the latest changes coming less than two weeks ago.

The commission chose district boundaries early on in the process that strengthened the historically black District 1 and further created a minority-majority district in District 3.

The Florida Legislature’s division of Gainesville during the statewide redistricting made the process more complicated because new state house and senate district lines required the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections to redraw many of the county’s voting precincts.

The city was unable to finalize its maps until the precincts were redrawn and approved by the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners.

The redrawn districts will be used first during the city’s non-partisan election in August, which coincides with state primary elections.

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